The Tao of Poo

| | Photo by lovely lemur|

One summer a few years ago, I worked as a keeper at the Miami Metro Zoo. I may remember those halcyon days for the times that I spent scratching the belly of a tapir, petting bongo antelopes that made your hands look like you had eaten a bag of Cheetos, helping name a baby dama, or trying to quiet down a howler monkey that didn't like me much. But the fact is, most of my days were spent dealing with crap. Shoveling crap. Scooping crap. Raking crap. Spraying down crap. Wheelbarrowing crap. Lots and lots of—well, you get the idea.

So it comes as no surprise that crap was fresh in the minds of the folks at the Miami zoo when they rolled out their new exhibit, "The Scoop on Poop." Based on a book of the same name and the self-proclaimed "largest exhibition ever mounted about the science of scat," the exhibit explores the many ways that animals—and people—use poop in their everyday lives. Visitors can learn the names of poop types from around the world, find out how long it would take (down to the minute) for an elephant to excrete a human's body weight in poop, challenge each other to dung-beetle races, and even touch some fossilized dinosaur poop, all in the name of understanding a rarely talked about but important by-product of life.

One of the highlights of the exhibit is "Dung Boots," in which visitors watch a rhinoceros kick and stomp its dung, marking its territory with a trail of smelly footprints. How do I know that the rhino is on to something? Its trail definitely won't be disappearing anytime soon—rhino crap is some hard stuff to clean up, let me tell you.

"The Scoop on Poop" runs through January 10 at the Miami Metro Zoo. —Dan Smith